Archive for October, 2009

Water, water everywhere.

October 30, 2009

Our day started with a lovely breakfast at Ananda before heading out on the bus to the Glass House on the Ganges.  We were honored to experience a Ganga Puga, which is a sacred ritual to ask the river for purification and protection.  The spiritual leader offered each of us a sacred thread to wear around our wrist as a symbol of protection and a way to commemorate the moment.  We enjoyed a cup of tea in the Glass House and then headed out to visit a water project funded through Earth Month candle proceeds.

On the bank of the Ganges

On the bank of the Ganges

Ganga Puga

Sarah at Ganga Puga

The water project was in a small village outside Rishikesh and was funded by Save the Childhood Foundation – the organization we met on our first day.  The project is being done at a school of over 100 children that previously needed to haul their own drinking water on a 1.2 mile walk to their remote school at  the base of a rocky path. 

The trek to the school and well.

Maryanne leads the way to the water project.

They now have a 2,000 liter water tank fed by a small stream up the mountain.  Another tank and toilets will be installed so that the school has sanitation and the kitchen has water available for cooking and cleaning.  In these small remote villages water is power, so it’s actually a very delicate endeavor to support a water project like this.  For this reason, we were not able to take pictures and don’t have any photos to share at this time, but expect to have some at a later date to show everyone this wonderful project.  The project is so new, that today was actually the first day the children enjoyed clean water from the new water tank. 

The water tank at the village school.

The water tank that Earth Month candles funded.

The group was overjoyed to see these children’s happy faces.  They greeted us by saying “Good Morning teacher” and smiling in a sort of bashful manner.  These children had rarely, if ever seen foreigners so the chance to visit them was truly a privilege for us.  It was such a wonderful opportunity to see firsthand the results of Earth Month and a Greengrants/Save the Childhood Foundation project. 

School girls getting water.

School girls getting water.

Next we headed back to the Glass House for a beautiful lunch and sweeping views of the Ganges.  Some from our group even took a cleansing dip in the river after lunch.  What an experience to see our group immerse themselves in what the Hindu religion considers the holiest of rivers. 

Taking a dip in the Ganges.

Taking a dip in the Ganges.

On the way back to Ananda we got a dose of the quintessential Indian experience.  We were held up in traffic for over an hour due to a landslide on the mountain. We watched and waited as cars lined up and crews shoveled away the fallen debris.  The group remained in good spirits, making jokes and feeling as though an incident like this only makes our India experience more authentic.  According to Tom Petrillo, “we’re a bus full of flexible people.” 

Landslide on our way back to Ananda

Landslide blocking the road on our way to Ananda.

With our idle time we had an imprompu Ayurvedic nutrition lesson with Marc on the bus which was enjoyed by all.

Mark leads a chakra class on the bus.

Marc leads a chakra class on the bus.

Today was the most important day of our trip and the reason we came to India.  We were able to see a water project that resulted from Aveda’s Earth Month fundraising and the dedication of our trip winners.  The children’s faces made everything worthwhile – even a landslide couldn’t crush all the joy we were filled with from this day.

*Technology is not being our friend tonight and is not allowing us to upload photos.  We’ll try to post them tomorrow and cross our fingers that our internet connection is better!


Journey into the Himalayas

October 29, 2009

It was an early morning start for a long day of travel. The Delhi train station wasn’t as daunting as we thought it would be – but it certainly was an eye opener. Jet lag seemed to really set in for many of us today, but in spite of our fatigue, we were all transfixed looking out the train windows on the journey north into the foothills of the Himalayas. We saw beautiful landscapes and passed through many small villages along the way seeing quite a spectrum of sights. There were rural areas with people working in the fields and gathering plant materials contrasted by villages with trash piled along the railroad tracks and people bathing in dirty puddles of water. We also saw an endless array of animals including donkeys, horses, goats, dogs (and surprisingly dogs wearing sweaters!), peacocks, monkeys, and pigs.

After a six hour train ride we arrived at the Haridwar train station in the foothills of the Himalayas, which was truly the India we imagined.

Haridwar Train Station

Haridwar Train Station

When our bus passed over the sacred Ganges River and we caught sight of the giant Lord Shiva statue, it was clear we were a long way from home.

Lord Shiva Statue

Lord Shiva Statue on the Ganges

After a long hairpin drive up the mountain, we were greeted at Ananda with a warm welcome from the staff and lovely ginger tea.

Greeting at Ananda

Traditional Greeting at Ananda

Prior to settling into dinner we had a wonderful Dosha education and meditation session with Marc Zollicoffer. An original poem by Kirk beautifully summed up the day for the team and we’re happy to be able to share part of it with you here. Enjoy.

“And the night winds gather together dancing and bending. Worry matters not in this sacred place. My load is lighter with Mother Earth providing a hiding place for all cares and problems to disappear. Five senses working together for one united cause. Fifteen people working together to achieve beautiful things. One company at the wheel giving back the most precious things we all possess.”

Peacocks roam free at Ananda

Peacocks roam free at Ananda

A Wonderful Way to Begin

October 28, 2009

What a day. This was an amazing way to begin our trip in India – and we couldn’t imagine the things that were in store for us today. First let us start with probably the most important item of the day – David Hircock has safely arrived in Delhi. We had been told that he missed his train, but as it turns out we were only told that so we wouldn’t worry. In reality, his train was hijacked by gunmen last night a few stops before he got on. Obviously the hijacking caused a delay and quite a commotion here in India – it was front page news in all the newspapers and on all news networks. Are we nervous that we’re going on a train tomorrow? No, not really. David assures us that after last night’s incident, the trains are probably safer now than ever. That’s what we like to think.

As we were driving to the Mukti Ashram, the group was overcome by the sights they were seeing outside our tour bus. The poverty and the chaos are indescribable. It makes you understand why it’s so important that we help make a difference for people here. Amidst the chaos was a sight that lifted everybody’s spirits – an elephant walking down the middle of the street amid bustling traffic. Apparently elephants here are highly regarded and used in festivals and wedding ceremonies. He commanded respect not only by his size but by his significance.

Elephant in Delhi street

Elephant in Delhi street

Undoubtedly, the highlight of the day was our visit with children rescued from India’s mica mining industry. These children are now in the care of the Save the Childhood Foundation, founded by Kailash Satyarthi and his wife, at the Mukti Ashram outside Delhi.  Here they are educated, clothed, sheltered, rehabilitated and in most cases returned to their families.

Mukti Ashram entrance

Mukti Ashram entrance

The mica mining industry is notorious for child labor practices and with David Hircock’s guidance, Aveda has been working to help change industry practices so that child labor can be eliminated. We’ve been working with the Save the Childhood Foundation to support their efforts to rescue children from mining and establish “Child Friendly Villages” where they will be protected from child labor. As part of Aveda’s Earth Month campaign two years ago, our Global partner, Global Greengrants Fund, made a grant to Save the Childhood Foundation specifically to help rebuild and install clean water wells in nine Child Friendly Villages – this made our visit today even more meaningful. We expected to see children beaten down by society but instead we saw children filled with hope, strength and love. A shining example was Mohammed who just two weeks ago was rescued from a mica mine. His goal used to be to learn how to read bus numbers. Now that he has been rescued, his new goal is to become a doctor. Other children spoke about becoming judges, electricians, and working to eliminate child labor forever.

Children in Ashram Classroom

We were so proud of Rochelle who spoke to the children on behalf of our group. After arriving on her first trip overseas and away from her husband and children, she was emotionally overwhelmed by the ride to the hotel. She was the last person we expected to be able to keep a dry eye and speak to these children without breaking down.

Rochelle speaks to the children

Rochelle speaks to the children

Rochelle speaks on behalf of our entire group when she says the children’s strength inspired her and gave her hope for a better future for them and for us all. While she didn’t cry, everyone else was in tears…except the children who laughed, sang, spoke, performed for us and danced with us.

Children dancing

Children dancing

We’re extremely glad David is safe and we loved seeing the elephant, but it is the children that we will all remember most from this day.

The Aveda group at the Ashram

The Aveda group at the Ashram with Kailash Satyarthi and his charming wife.

Happy cow outside the Ashram

Happy cow outside the Ashram

The Team Arrives

October 28, 2009

They’re here. Well, most everyone. The Winners arrived safely. Tired but with energy to get started. As with any large tour, especially one traveling to a country like India, something is bound to go not as planned. Well, David Hircock, an experienced India and world traveler already in country doing work, missed his train. Minor snafu, but it won’t stop us. Our motto-always have an alternative! So we carry on without him and look forward to seeing him tonight.

The team arrived late last night, greeted by a spritz or two of All Sensitive Toner and an Aveda reusable tote (100% recycled cotton and plastic bottles) filled with goodies, including a Clif Bar, Aveda Blue Oil (needed after a long trip) and offsets by NativeEnergy. These are really cool. All the participants CO2 emissions from flights to and from India, as well as in country travel are being offset by NativeEnergy and will support a new wind farm in Greensburg Kansas, which was destroyed by an F5 tornado. They are rebuilding green, wanting to be as they say, “the greenest town in America”. Groovy!

Back to India.  After a good night sleep we are looking forward to visitng the Mukti Asharam where we will meet children that have been rescued from slave labor in mica mines – this was arranged by David and is a good example of the type of work he supports on Aveda’s behalf.  This is the day that Kirk from San Diego is most looking forward to. So we will update you later with more details from the team. Namaste.


Welcome to India!

October 27, 2009

Every April, in honor of Earth Day, Aveda celebrates “Earth Month” with global fundraising activities and events to raise awareness around a specific environmental issue. This year’s theme, “Clean Water – It Only Takes Baby Steps” focused on protecting clean water at home and around the world. The Aveda network of salons, spas, stores, and institutes and their guests raised a monumental $3.25 million for Aveda’s 20+ non-profit Earth Month Partners. Thank you!

A key fundraising element was the Light the Way candle, from which all proceeds are donated to Global Greengrants Fund for projects that help protect water in countries where Aveda sources ingredients. Global Greengrants Fund is a non-profit organization that makes small grants to grassroots environmental organizations in developing countries working to protect their natural resources and empower communities. If you purchased an Earth Month candle, you helped make these projects possible. If you would like to support these efforts, a limited quantity of Earth Month candles is still available in Aveda stores and select salons, spas and institutes.

As a reward for incredible fundraising results, Aveda is celebrating our Earth Month accomplishments in India with the top salon and retail sales representatives whose locations most strongly supported Earth Month efforts. Highlights of this trip will include seeing first-hand a Greengrants water project solely funded through candle proceeds, visiting the “birthplace” of Aveda, whitewater rafting on the Ganges River, and much more.

The group arrives in Delhi tonight. We’d like to introduce the lucky people who will be experiencing this amazing journey in India.

Trip Winners:
Kristine Herzberg – Salon Development Partner, Omaha, NE
Christine Simon – Salon Development Partner, Hartford, CT
Emily Szymborski – Salon Development Partner, Madison, WI
Kirk Holmes – Salon Development Partner, San Diego, CA
Melissa McClellan – Experience Center Manager, Easton Town Center, OH
Sarah Belden – Experience Center Manager, Woodland Hills Mall, OK
Maryanne Schramm – District Manager, South Atlantic
Rochelle Kwiatkowski – District Manager, Midwest

Other Attendees:
Tom Petrillo – The Salon People, St. Petersburg, FL
Catherine Porter – Global Greengrants Fund, Board of Directors Sausalito, CA
David Hircock – Estee Lauder/Aveda
Marc Zollicoffer – Aveda Spa Education, Minneapolis MN
Saraswati Kavula – Videographer
Gigi Abbadie – Aveda Affinity Marketing, Minneapolis, MN
Katie Galloway – Aveda Earth and Community Care, Minneapolis, MN

Please join us on a virtual trip through northern India over the next week. We’ll post photos and highlights daily (or as technology allows!).

Bon voyage!

Weblinks of interest:

The Aveda Team is on Its Way to India…

October 26, 2009

Stay tuned for updates from the Aveda Earth Month trip in India…